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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.


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Trade Union Revitalisation in the Netherlands 187


LENI BEUKEMA Labour Revitalisation in the Netherlands 1 1. Introduction The question of revitalising the labour movement has again become a matter of great urgency. At a time when local developments are in- creasingly interrelated through the processes of globalisation, both the nature of work and the position of labour unions are transforming rapidly all over the world. In this chapter we highlight the impact of these developments in the Dutch context and examine the specific questions Dutch unions must now face. The union movement was an important factor in the shaping of the first modernity, in which the logic of institutionalised regulation prevailed (Beck 2000: 172). In this first modernity the union move- ment had a two-fold character. It was a regulating factor, one of the important architects of the welfare state, and it was also was a counter- vailing power. The extent to which the union movement functions in this second sense can be measured by the extent to which it strives, as an emancipatory movement, for a fundamental transformation of existing social relations. This emancipatory character requires reflec- tion on social developments, their consequences for workers and the unemployed, and also on the contributions of the union movement itself to these developments. In our time, with radical changes in society underway, unions have had great difficulty keeping pace. Muckenberger et al (1995: 15– 16) speak of a ‘crisis of representation’, which is evident in all EU member states: employees no longer feel represented by union policies 1...

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